STATESBORO — Georgia Southern University held its first virtual commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday to honor the 4,300-plus graduates from the class of 2020.
The ceremonies were divided up by colleges and held in two-hour intervals on both days.
Each graduate was featured in a slide including their name, degree and - for those who submitted - a picture and a "thank you" message. Each name was also read by a faculty member, like a regular commencement.
The ceremonies also included video messages from notable GS graduates and distinguished individuals with ties to the university, including Cole Swindell, country music star; Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A ('75); and Sonny Purdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former governor of Georgia.
Governor Brian Kemp also had a special message for all of Georgia's graduates.
"I know you didn't expect to finish your final semester this way, but quite honestly, it makes your accomplishment even more impressive," Kemp said. "Graduation may look a little different this year, but know that Georgia is proud and cheering you on."
President Kyle Marrero introduced the commencement ceremonies with a message of hope for the future.
"It is truly my hope that we are able to gather in person soon for a rescheduled spring ceremony," Marrero said. "But we did not want to let this day pass without recognizing our graduates in a meaningful, memorable way."
The videos were created by GS' multimedia development center. Emmy award-winning director Art Berger led the massive effort.
“This has been a great project to work on,” Berger said. “These virtual commencements have been a nice way to feel like we are still connected to the students... and create a unique virtual experience for them.”
GS still plans to have a rescheduled, in-person ceremony for spring 2020 graduates, but the date for the rescheduled ceremony has yet to be determined. Graduates can participate in that or in the fall 2020 commencement ceremony in December.
All of the virtual commencement ceremonies are archived online and available for viewing here.
Abby Fuller and Mitch Smith, The George-Anne Managing Editors, firstname.lastname@example.org